XENIA — The end of the summer is universally celebrated by millions of Americans on Labor Day weekend. For many motorcyclists, the weekend is a chance to close down summer with that last long ride.
This year, local law enforcement agencies and the Greene County Safe Communities Coalition through Greene County Public Health (GCPH) are partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to stop drunk motorcyclists and drunk drivers to help save lives. The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, Ride Sober or Get Pulled Over, runs through Monday, Sept. 4.
During this period, local law enforcement will show zero tolerance for drunk riding. Increased state and national messages about the dangers of riding impaired, coupled with enforcement and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce drunk riding on our nation’s roadways.
According to a release from GCPH, in 2015, there were 4,976 motorcyclists (4,684 riders and 292 passengers) killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes — an increase of more than 8 percent from the 4,586 motorcyclists killed in 2014. However, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured during 2015, a 3 percent decrease from the 92,000 motorcyclists injured in 2014. From 2013 to 2014, there was a decrease (2 percent) of motorcyclists killed. Even though motorcycles only account for about 3 percent of registered vehicles on the road, motorcyclists are dramatically overrepresented in fatal crashes — especially those involving alcohol.
The more that motorcyclists drink, the less likely they are to wear their helmets. In 2015, the reported helmet use rate for alcohol-impaired motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes was 51 percent, as compared to 65 percent for those with no alcohol consumed (BAC=.00 g/dL).
“It takes years of training and specialized skill to ride a motorcycle,” said Jillian Drew, Coordinator, Greene County Safe Communities.
“When motorcyclists decide to mix drinking and riding, their skills are impaired. This can lead to a number of situations, the worst of which is loss of life. There is no situation in which it is acceptable to drink and drive, and riding a motorcycle is no safer a situation than driving a vehicle.”
Youth also plays a factor in deadly motorcycle accidents. In 2015, nearly half (44 percent) of drunk-driving motorcyclists were between the ages of 18 and 34. In the same year, 1,905 alcohol-impaired motorcyclists died in single-vehicle crashes. Sixty-three percent of those killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekend nights were alcohol impaired.
“The numbers speak for themselves; we have a problem with motorcyclists drinking and riding,” said Lt. Matt Schmenk, Xenia Post, Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“Doing so not only puts yourself at risk, but it also puts others on the road at risk, including your passenger. Motorcycles do not have seat belts. There are no walls, and no air bags. There is nothing between you and the road, or you and another vehicle. Ifyou are drinking, we will see you, stop you, arrest you, and impound your motorcycle. One way or another, we will put a stop to drunk driving.”
Greene County local law enforcement agencies and NHTSA are reminding citizens of the many resources available to get them home safely. “Drunk riding is not acceptable behavior,” said Schmenk.
“There are too many tools for you to use to get home safely. It is essential to plan a sober ride home before you ever leave for the party. That’s why, during the Labor Day holiday, we will make zero exceptions for drunk riding. There are just no excuses,” he said.
The members of the Greene County Safe Communities Coalition recommend these safe alternatives to drinking and motorcycle riding:
• Remember that it is never okay to drink and ride. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober rider or make a plan to store your bike securely and use another form of transportation to get home safely.
• Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app available on Google Play for Android devices. SaferRide allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend, and identifies the user’s location so he or she can be picked up.
• If you see a drunk driver or motorcycle rider on the road, contact local law enforcement.
• Have a friend who is about to drink and ride? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.
For more information about the Ride Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, visit www.TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov.
The next meeting of the Greene County Safe Communities Coalition is 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25 at Greene County Public Health, 360 Wilson Drive. The public is invited to attend.
For more information, contact Jillian Drew at 937-374-5683 or email [email protected].